Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Hitchens 'Mortality'

A month or two ago I pre-ordered Christopher Hitchens' last book, Mortality, with a little trepidation.  I didn't really want to read the dying words of a great orator and writer, but nor did I want to miss any of the things that he had to say.

A few days ago, my copy of this giant little book arrived, and today I have finished reading it, leaving me feeling . . . I'm not sure how.  It is only 104 pages long but it is packed with insights into his life in Tumortown, as he called it.

Mortality, by Christopher Hitchens
by Christopher Hitchens

It is a little fragmentary, sometimes repetitive and even trivially inconsistent, (e.g. Tumortown being renamed Tumorville).  But considering the huge difficulties he experienced with communication while undergoing treatment for his cancer, I find it amazing that it makes such sense  I can't aspire to be half the writer that he was, even when he was in this weakened state.

The final chapter containing his own words was a collection of fragmentary jottings.  Perhaps my favorite was:

Now so many tributes that it also seems that rumours of my LIFE have also been greatly exaggerated.  Lived to see most of what is going to be written about me: this too is exhilarating but hits diminishing returns when I realize how soon it, too, will be "background".

and I also like this one

If I convert it's because it's better that a believer dies than that an atheist does.

The final chapter is written by his wife, Carol Blue.  I couldn't read that again.  I recognised the first few paragraphs from an article I read recently online.  It is odd that such glowing, affectionate and passionate words made me feel a bit melancholy.

If you admired the man, you should read this book.

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